During the initial stage of negotiating your presence, make sure to check all the necessary details concerning your appearance. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself beforehand:
- The expected duration of the lecture – not including the Q&A session, as well as the time reserved for this part
- The structure (profile) of the participants
- What the organizer wishes to achieve/accomplish with your presence (I almost always ask this because the lecturer can present a showcase presentation, an assertive/motivational presentation, a trending or theoretical presentation, etc). As a professional, it’s your job to help the organizers accomplish the goal they’ve sent for their event.
- Technical details concerning the event: is it streamed, is the format of your presentation acceptable (.pdf, .ppt, keynote – it makes a difference), is the conference room possess adequate audio equipment (in case you plan to send video messages), what type of microphone is being used (this is a very important detail!), who are the other participants/themes (you shouldn’t overlap with your colleagues)…
- Details concerning other obligations that the organizer has planned out for you – media appearances before the conference and during the event (press statements, interviews), excursions, participation in panel discussions and working groups, informal gatherings (cocktails, parties)
- Deadline for submitting your presentation along with a description, as well as the final presentation for the organizers (in case the organizers do not ask you for your presentation, they either trust your enormously or are inexperienced; the organizers reserve all rights and are responsible for the content of your presentation, after all)
- Logistical details – travel, accommodation, your fee, as well as how the fee will be paid out
Once you’ve reached a precise agreement with the organizers…
- First of all, think about the audience, the organizer’s goal and your competence in this field.
- Create a concept around your lecture – I usually sum it in the title of my presentation, but there are other ways of doing it as well. The idea revolving around the lecture helps you be more focused when researching the topic and to more easily select the content which you will, later on, compile into your presentation as a whole.
- The following step is analysis – depending on the theme and the goal, I usually research anywhere between 3 and 10 days. Throughout this period, I search for analogies, applicable metaphors, relevant quotes and sources, as well as multimedia content that I can use to illustrate the verbal part of my presentation.
- I usually take about two days to compile my presentation.
- After that, I hand over everything that I have come up to design professionals – people who will visualize the meaning of my lecture along with my (sometimes rather abstract) ideas in order to give them a breath of life. PRpepper‘s amazing Creative lab department is responsible for this, having created numerous logos, books of standards, the basis of visual identity and visual characteristics of brands/campaigns. Such a team is of great help to personally, whether I’m in the midst of arranging my ideas or finalizing them in a unique process. My presentations were prepared by Ivan Ćosić a couple of times, but for the most part, they were done mostly myself, having been taught by the experience. Remember that the presentation is you, your ideas, argument and anecdotes that you bring out or “pack” into your presentation. All of this together makes up for a successful presentation.
- Support the event through your own channels of social media – share, comment and thank the event organizers. You’re a part of the event, hence it’s completely natural for it to become a part of you!
- Practice your appearance – every lecture that I’ve given, I’ve done in front of the mirror at least 3 times! There’s no secret, the key is in the effort you’ve put into it. When I appear on stage, I know every slide, every picture and I have every anecdote that I consider appropriate from my research, learned by heart.
- At the day of the lecture, I upload my presentation on slide share and I prepare a tweet to be published during the presentation; first of all for all of those following the lecture through the live stream, but also for the people in the auditorium that are following the lecture on their device (this is especially important when you’re in large auditoriums like the one in Montreal which sits 3000 people). This also facilitates things for the organizers, having in mind they almost always upload the presentation on their website.
During the conference…
- Attend as many lectures as possible. You’re not a star. Come on, please… culture is something that depicts even the greatest lecturers, and to show up only to your lecture is rude and pretty arrogant. I always try to attend the lecture of my colleagues due to a few practical reasons, but mostly to learn something new. Also, being part of the audience lets me feel the energy of the participants, their temper, it lets me learn their names and nicknames, but also to spot the pros and cons of the auditorium and the stage. I also detect my colleagues’ lectures which are liked and not liked by the audience. In that way, you too become a part of the conference even before D-day. Both the participants and the organizers deserve this.
- Socialize with people before the lectures. Say hi, look them in the eyes – these are rare opportunities to have a look at one another, give each other a hug, and just feel. Ask them about their impressions concerning the lectures so far, and about their expectations. People. These are people. Most are smart, hard-working people that learn and evolve. Be a real person with people.
- During the informal conferences, gatherings be available, but also dignified. I have never taken part in #krmljao and #kafanizacija activities. These do not represent the agency nor team that I represent, nor myself. In addition, you need to be rested before your lecture. You need to be well-rested and focused – fresh and full of energy. A glass of wine and a dance or two should be more than enough. You’re a lecturer, you’re not a socialite nor an entertainer. Save your energy, your reputation, your name, as well as the trust of the organizers.
- On the day of the lecture, I usually eat less than usual. In addition, I also run through my speech once again and make sure to correct anything if necessary. Thanks to being well prepared, during every lecture, I select someone from the audience to use an example, quote or to ask for their personal opinion. Share your glory – you’ll have more of it. “Glory” is only kept by those who never had it. All of us make up for a good conference. The lecturers, organizers, as well as every participant in the audience.
- Before every lecture, I perform a few rituals (speech and breathing exercises). I make sure I look my best. I consider myself an elegant woman that provokes not by her looks but through performance. I have never come on stage wearing the same outfit as I had on during that day at the conference. This is a trick that helps me gain extra self-confidence, but also sends a clear message of respect and my (serious) intentions to the audience. Lectures in low cut tops, flip-flops and attire of adequate length/width are not style.
- During the lecture, make sure you keep track of time, as well as audience reaction. Even though I’m always well prepared, I improvise my performance based on audience feedback – I sometimes speed things up or slow them down, interact with the audience or call out to support it.
- I usually put my hair away because I want to make sure that the audience sees that I see them. It is important for me to move, but not to run around the stage. I change and adapt my intonation and posture depending on which slide or anecdote is following the presentation.
- At the very end of the lecture, I’m always touched by the support I get and I never hide that. I thank the audience and take a bow, and I show the love which I then return right back where it came from. I give a smile from my heart because I know that I ignited a small candle of hope or an idea that will eventually light up a new flame.
- I am pretty patient during the Q&A session – I try to remember the name of the person asking me the question, while I write down or memorize the question asked. I thank the person for the question because it confirms the invested attention. I answer concisely because I wish to add value to the event and encourage other participants to interact.
After the presentation…
- After the presentation, I make sure to stay as long as necessary to answer all the questions posed by the participants. In case they liked it – I always ask them what it is that they’ve found useful. Don’t be vain – vanity is superficial. Educators should always try and learn, even if we’re talking about their own lectures. Ask the audience what was good, as well as what wasn’t so good in order to shine even brighter next time around.
- And now, the most beautiful (or perhaps the most difficult) part: the reactions from the audience are divided all over the Internet – read, absorb, contemplate, respond, thank and follow.
- After a day or two – when the organizers had the time to sum up the impressions, make sure to thank them.
Lecturing above all means that you possess the necessary knowledge, but also that you know how to share it unselfishly.
In the end, I would like to thank Nikola Jovanović that inspired me to write this text with his post and impressions from the spark.me conference that all of us – the organizers, lecturers and participants – equally enjoyed. @Nikola, thanks for all the wonderful words and your meaningful comment about the performance of PRpepper’s team. We’ll carry on doing our best!
*Below you will find some of my past lectures and presentations, as well as two tweets of colleagues with enormous experience, that I respect very much as lecturers. Do not claim -> demonstrate!
— Debbie Weil (@debbieweil) May 11, 2011
— John Biggs (@johnbiggs) September 27, 2013